Starting to Shop for a Mortgage? How to Assess Your ‘Debt-to-Income Ratio’ and Why This Number Matters
Those who are looking to buy a home may want to start by shopping for a loan first. Having financing ahead of time may make it easier to get sellers to take a buyer seriously and help move along the closing process. For those who are looking to get a mortgage, the most important factor for having a mortgage application approved is the debt-to-income ratio of the borrower.
What Is a Debt-to-Income Ratio?
A debt-to-income ratio is simply the percentage of debt compared to the amount of income that a person brings in. If a person brought home $1,000 a month and had $500 worth of debt, that person would have a DTI of 50 percent. To improve the odds of getting a home loan, experts recommend that potential borrowers keep their DTI under 43 percent.
What Debt Will Lenders Look At?
The good news for borrowers is that lenders will disregard some debt when calculating a borrower’s DTI. For example, a health insurance premium would not be considered as part of your DTI while, and income is calculated on a pre-tax basis. This means that a borrower doesn’t have to factor in taxes when calculating their qualifying income.
What lenders will look at are any installment loan obligations such as auto loans or student loans as well as any revolving debt payments such as credit cards or a home equity line of credit. In some cases, a lender will disregard an installment loan debt if the loan is projected to be paid off in the next 10-12 months.
What Is Considered as Income?
Almost any source of income that can be verified will be counted as income on a mortgage application. Those who receive alimony, investment income or money from a pension or social security will have that money included in their monthly income when they apply for a loan. Wage income is also considered as part of a borrower’s monthly qualifying income. Self-employed individuals can use their net profit as income when applying for a mortgage. However, many lenders will average income in the current year with income from previous years.
How Much Debt Is Too Much Debt?
Many lenders will only offer loans to those who have a debt-to-income ratio of 43 percent. However, government backed loans may allow borrowers who have a DTI of 50-55 to qualify for a loan depending on their income and other factors. Talking to a lender prior to starting the mortgage application process may be able to help a borrower determine if his or her chosen lender offers such leeway.
A borrower’s DTI ratio may be the biggest factor when a lender decides whether to approve a mortgage application. Those who wish to increase their odds of loan approval may decide to lower their DTI by increasing their income or lowering their debt. This may make it easier for the lender and the underwriter to justify making a loan to the borrower.
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